Sunday, October 2, 2011
This month begins a term at the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court will hear two important cases concerning land use. The cases turn on very different doctrinal issues. One concerns rights and remedies under the Administrative Procedure Act. The other involves an actual property issue, namely whether a state has title to a river bed arising out of application of the navigable waterway doctrine. In most ways, the cases could not be more different. Yet they are connected by one common theme. Both cases demonstrate the dangers—to landowners and governments alike—when a government entity is both a party interested in the outcome of a land use dispute and the authority charged with adjudicating the dispute.
The first case is Sackett v. EPA. According to their counsel, the Sacketts planned to build their dream home near (but not adjacent to) a lake in Idaho. They acquired the necessary local permits and received the assurance of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that no federal permits were required. They had begun preparations to build when EPA showed up, insisting that the lot was situated on wetlands (the putative wetland area is separated from the lake itself).
As commentators on both the Left and the Right have observed, the factual question whether the Sacketts’ land is part of nearby wetlands is contestable. But the Sacketts have no way of contesting EPA’s contention unless and until EPA seeks enforcement of an order against them in federal court; two lower federal courts ruled that federal law provides no mechanism for a pre-enforcement challenge. As the Sacketts’ counsel pointed out, this situation left the Sacketts with an “unenviable choice.” They could apply for a permit that they believe they are not required to obtain and pay the associated costs. Or they could expose themselves to an enforcement action and the associated fines, which could run over $30,000 per day. Either way, they would incur inordinate expense to build on a lot that they purchased for $23,000.
This Hobson’s choice for the Sacketts rendered EPA the de facto adjudicator of their rights. And had a public interest litigation group not come to their aid, the Sacketts would have been at the mercy of a federal administrative agency that served as investigator, prosecutor, judge, and jury. Because the Court has agreed to hear the Sacketts’ claim not under the Clean Water Act but under the broader Administrative Procedure Act, the implications of the Court’s ruling could reach far. Jonathan Adler has speculated, “While this case focuses on the Clean Water Act’s ACO regime, the cert grant makes clear that it will have broader application to laws that employ similar enforcement mechanisms, including the Clean Air Act and Superfund.”
Does the constitutional test for determining whether a section of a river is navigable for title purposes require a trial court to determine, based on evidence, whether the relevant stretch of the river was navigable at the time the State joined the Union as directed by United States v. Utah, 283 U.S. 64 (1931), or may the court simply deem the river as a whole generally navigable based on evidence of present day recreational use, with the question “very liberally construed” in the State’s favor?
According to the pleadings, the case arose when the State of Montana decided to claim title in riverbeds that had long been used by a private landowner, namely a power company using the river to generate hydroelectricity. Montana became a state in 1889. Two years later, in 1891, a predecessor-in-title to the power company built a dam near Fort Benton, Montana on the Missouri River, apparently believing that this stretch of the river was not navigable, and that the State of Montana therefore had no title in it. More dams were built on the Missouri and Madison Rivers, and the State, no doubt benefiting from this land use, did not object. Indeed, the State participated in the licensing proceedings for some of the dams.
Then, in 2004, the State of Montana, piggybacking on a lawsuit filed by parents of Montana school children, claimed that it had owned title to the riverbeds all along because the contested stretches of river are navigable. The Montana Supreme Court ruled for the State and upheld a judgment of $41 million in back rent.
In this case, the government actor advocating on behalf of the state—the Montana Attorney General—is distinct from the state courts that adjudicated the claim. But the central issue in the case turns on a disputed, mixed question of fact and law. And about this question the Montana state courts showed strikingly little curiosity. Despite 500 pages of expert testimony and exhibits disputing the State’s assertion of navigability, the Montana Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s entry of summary judgment for the State. The Montana courts appear to have simply accepted the Montana Attorney General’s proposed findings.
It is now increasingly common for states and federal agencies to advocate for particular outcomes of private land use proposals. I intend to explore some of the implications of this trend at length in later posts. But in short, whatever its benefits, this advocacy entails significant costs. And these costs are not borne only by landowners. I will argue that the governmental authorities themselves pay a price, because they risk damaging their reputations as impartial ministers of law.
Update: David Breemer of the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) comments below. As I should have noted, PLF is the public interest firm representing the Sacketts.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Coming to the small screen. From the Hartford Courant: Brooke Shields To Star In Movie Based On New London Eminent Domain Case; Author Jeff Benedict Announces Deal On His Blog
"Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage," a book written in 2009 by Jeff Benedict about the Fort Trumbull eminent domain decision in New London, is being made into a Lifetime TV movie starring Brooke Shields as the decision's most prominent opponent, Susette Kelo, according to an announcement made Friday on the author's blog, http://www.jeffbenedict.com.
Rick Woolf, Benedict's editor at Grand Central Publishing, confirmed the report. "We're thrilled that this is going to be a movie on Lifetime," Woolf said. "Susette is a folk hero and Jeff has done a tremendous job telling the story."
Wonder if they'll get John Cougar Mellencamp's permission to use "Pink Houses" for the soundtrack. Thanks to Jason Kercheval for the pointer.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
The South Bend Tribune reports that U.S. District Judge Robert Miller (NDIN) has granted a preliminary injunction sought by four local residents represented by the ACLU of Indiana. The plaintiffs object to the transfer of the former Family Dollar site, recently bought by the City for $1.2 M, to a local CDC that would turn it over to St. Joseph High School, a co-ed Catholic school which would use it for athletics and parking and had committed to accomodate requested public use for 10 years. (FD: my two older children recently began attending St. Joseph High School here in South Bend, shortly after I began my new post here at Notre Dame.) The local council had approved the acquisition and transfer on a 5-4 vote.
In the opinion, Judge Miller agrees with the plaintiffs that the transfer constitutes a direct subsidy to a religious institution in violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause. The Court distinguished recent school voucher program precedent by emphasizing that the below-market transfer by the City is not part of a program with religion-neutral criteria. To me, this point about the ad hoc nature of public-to-private land transfers makes the opinion an interesting land use case. It raises the question: Are religious institutions quarrantined from economic development land transfers even though (as the Court agrees) they are not from public benefits generally?
Related to this point is the nature of the endorsement of (a?) religion. With the qualification that I am not a First Amendment scholar, I did note that the Court found that the transfer violated the second prong of the Lemon test (you know, whether the action's primary effect is to advance/inhibit religion) Even though neither the City nor the plaintiffs thought the issue determinative, the Court disagreed. The Court implied in its ruling that the proposed transfer sends a message to adherents and non-adherents that they are insiders and outsiders respectively. Was that part-and-parcel of the Court's distinction between programmatic and ad hoc public subsidies?
I would be glad to hear from you. I will be following the developments with not-just-an-academic interest.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
The Texas Supreme Court recently issued an opinion that makes some new law in the crucial and evolving area of individual property rights versus local governments' objectives of abating blighted properites. From The Examiner newspapers, The Hazard Next Door: Texas Ruling Restricts Cities from Eliminating Blighted Structures.
The case, City of Dallas v. Heather Stewart, involved a situation similar to the one involving Thurmond. A city of Dallas board recommended that a long-dilapidated home be demolished. The city did that, but the owner, Stewart, sued in district court, saying the city had unlawfully taken her property. At trial, the jury ruled in her favor, and Stewart was awarded her $75,707.67 for the destruction of her home.
Dallas appealed the case to the Texas Supreme Court, which ruled July 1. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson acknowledged that cities “must be able to abate dilapidated structures” that “threaten neighborhoods.” But, Jefferson wrote, cities must set up a mechanism to address that threat that complies with Texas constitutional mandates that protect private property rights.
“Today we hold that a system that permits constitutional issues of this importance to be decided by an administrative board, whose decisions are essentially conclusive, does not correctly balance the need to abate nuisances against the rights accorded to property owners under our constitution,” Jefferson wrote, adding that independent review of a court is necessary.
Particularly in light of the foreclosure crisis, this type of decision could seriously handcuff local governments trying to make a difference in the current context; on the other hand, even though the facts of this case are unsympathetic, there still is an important constitutional right to just compensation. I wasn't tracking the case until after it came out and the reporter called, but it seems that it has already chilled similar local government actions here in Houston, and should be noted by public administrators across the US.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
I was on the road for about a month with very little internet access (more on that to come). Fortunately, my land use students keep me up to date on things. Late last week I learned from my student Sonny Eckhart that the Texas Supreme Court issued its latest, and perhaps last, ruling in the Severance v. Patterson case that we've been following here on the blog, "abating" the case until the Fifth Circuit rules on the issue of mootness. I asked him to write it up for our readers, and here's what he has to say:
For those who have been following the Open Beach Act Litigation in Severance v. Patterson: warning, you might be a little disappointed. The Severance case is a challenge to the Texas Open Beaches Act, where Galveston Island homeowner Carol Severance brought suit against the Texas Attorney General and other state officials over the central issue of whether private beachfront properties on Galveston Island have redress when a public beach access easement is “rolled” onto private property when the vegetation line migrates landward. Needless to say, this has caused a stir in the courts and among legal scholars. During this process, the Land Use Prof Blog has provided several discussions and updates on the long-running dispute. See here, here, here, here, here, and here.
On November 5, 2010, the Texas Supreme Court issued their opinion concluding public easements do not always “roll” with the beachfront. Most notably, the court distinguished between a change or avulsion caused by a natural event, such as a hurricane, and a “gradual change.”It would appear that Carol Severance had won a substantial victory. To combat this, the State filed a motion for rehearing—a motion that held the support of several amicus groups. The court granted rehearing in Severance and heard arguments four months ago, in April.
The facts of the case took an unexpected turn a few weeks ago when Carol Severance sold her property in Galveston, and thus may have rendered the legal action moot. The State acted quickly and filed a motion to vacate the November 2010 opinion before sending this matter back to the Fifth Circuit. Both parties submitted briefs on the issue of mootness. See State’s brief on mootness; Severance’s brief on mootness. Last Friday, July 29, the court issued an order that abated the case until the Fifth Circuit first reviewed the issue of mootness. The order in this case abates the Texas Supreme Court appeal until the jurisdictional issues can be decided.
Is This The End?
Find out after the jump!
August 4, 2011 in Beaches, Caselaw, Coastal Regulation, Constitutional Law, Judicial Review, Property, Property Rights, Property Theory, State Government, Takings, Texas | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
[This guest post is from Prof. Timothy Mulvaney (Texas Wesleyan), whom we've featured here before for his scholarship and commentary on judicial takings and on Severance v. Patterson--on which he hosted an excellent program in March. Here are his thoughts on the latest development in the case. Thanks!--Matt Festa]
The Land Use Prof Blog previously has included several entries on the long-running dispute regarding the Texas Open Beaches Act in the case of Severance v. Patterson (see here, here, here, here, and here). The case took yet another surprising turn last week when the plaintiff sold the last remaining property at issue in the suit.
At the filing of the complaint in 2006, the lawsuit involved three residential gulf-front properties owned by plaintiff Carol Severance. Following 2005’s Hurricane Rita, these properties ended up seaward of the vegetation line; after Rita, that is, Ms. Severance’s properties were composed almost entirely of dry sand beach. Ms. Severance challenged the State’s policy of removing homes that, due to erosion or coastal storms, now rest within the public’s “rolling” beach access easement.
In a 6-2 decision in November of 2010 on three certified questions from the Fifth Circuit, the Texas Supreme Court largely sided with Ms. Severance. The Court distinguished between (1) an easement destroyed by an avulsive event—which the majority held does not “roll” upland, such that the state must prove that a public easement across the “new” strip of beach adjacent to the post-Rita mean high water line has been established by custom, dedication, or prescription in each individual case, including Ms. Severance’s—and (2) an easement destroyed by imperceptible erosion—which the majority held does “roll” upland.
Yet in March of this year, the Court, at the request of the State and nearly two dozen amici, took the rather extraordinary step of deciding to re-hear the case. The Court ultimately conducted a second round of oral argument in April. Yet just last week, with the re-hearing decision pending, Ms. Severance sold the third and final property subject to the litigation (she had sold the other two properties several years earlier).
Upon receiving notice that Ms. Severance sold this last remaining property (notably, through a FEMA-funded buy-back program administered by the City of Galveston on the final day that she could avail herself of that option), the State immediately sent a letter to the Court suggesting that (1) the case is moot, and (2) the Court “should follow the established practice of vacating the latest opinion [the November 2010 opinion] before returning this matter to the Fifth Circuit.” Otherwise, said the State, the Court would be authorizing “a prevailing party to obtain through unilateral action what it was unable to accomplish in opposing a rehearing motion or a petition for review. … [the Court should not] permit an opinion to stand, by default, that was under active reconsideration.”
Counsel for Ms. Severance, David Breemer of the Pacific Legal Foundation, responded with a letter stating that the case is not moot because: (1) mootness cannot permit the state “to avoid a controversy over its property restrictions” by using those same controversial restrictions to force Ms. Severance to sell; (2) Ms. Severance owns another property in Galveston that was not included in her 2006 complaint but that is now subject to the State’s rolling easement policy; and (3) “there are ongoing personal and legal consequences to Severance” for which the Court can fashion a remedy.
In his letter, Mr. Breemer requested that the Court issue an expedited briefing schedule on the mootness issue. The Court obliged. The State filed its brief today, and Ms. Severance’s response is due next Tuesday. Stay tuned to the Land Use Prof Blog for updated information on Severance v. Patterson.
July 6, 2011 in Beaches, Caselaw, Coastal Regulation, Constitutional Law, Environmentalism, Politics, Property Rights, State Government, Takings, Texas, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
I'm excited to post this guest blog from Professor Timothy Mulvaney, a land use prof from Texas Wesleyan School of Law in Fort Worth. He's written extensively about judicial takings and exactions, and proivdes this timely and interesting post about yesterday's U.S. Supreme Court cert grant. This case has been somewhat under the radar, but could end up being very important. Thanks to Tim for the early and interesting analysis-- Matt Festa
Thank you very much for the opportunity to guest blog during this important week at the U.S. Supreme Court.
It is understandable that today’s headlines regarding the Supreme Court are devoted to several landmark decisions released yesterday, including rulings rejecting class certification in Wal-Mart v. Dukes and holding that the Clean Air Act displaces federal common law nuisance claims when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions in AEP v. Connecticut. But in addition to these major holdings, the Supreme Court also took the noteworthy step of granting certiorari in PPL Montana, LLC v. State of Montana. This case could have important implications for property, land use, natural resources, and environmental law.
In 2010, the Montana Supreme Court held that the State of Montana owns the beds of the Missouri, Madison, and Clarke Fork Rivers as an incident of state sovereignty. This ruling confirmed that PPL Montana is required to pay over $40 million in back-rent, as well as yet-to-be-determined future rent, for use of the rivers to generate hydroelectric power. PPL Montana claims that the riverbeds are private property, such that no rent to (or approval from) the State is necessary to conduct their operations. To determine whether these rivers are held in trust by the State or rather in private ownership turns on whether the rivers are considered “navigable.” The U.S. Supreme Court has defined waterways as “navigable” in the context of such a title dispute if the rivers were “used, or [were] susceptible of being used, in their ordinary condition, as highways for commerce, over which trade and travel [were] or may be conducted” when the relevant State was admitted to the Union.
In finding that all three rivers at issue met this “navigability for title” test when Montana entered statehood in 1889, the Montana Supreme Court cited to a litany of historical evidence, including the centuries-old journals of Lewis and Clark. As today’s brief AP story notes, PPL Montana disagreed, pointing “to accounts of the [Lewis and Clark] expedition’s arduous portages of canoes and supplies around waterfalls to argue that the contested stretches of water were not navigable.” The Montana Supreme Court’s opinion also drew PPL Montana’s ire by considering what the company alleges are flawed contemporary studies, as well as recent recreational uses of certain stretches of the rivers, to support the finding that the rivers are held in total by the state in trust for present and future generations.
One of the foremost experts in natural resources and water law, Professor Rick Frank, notes on Legal Planet that the U.S. Supreme Court has not addressed navigability in the context of state public trust claims for several decades. How the Supreme Court interprets its time-honored test and identifies what evidence is relevant in its application could have major ramifications for thousands of miles of inland lakes and waterways nationwide.
Yet there may be another issue lurking under the surface. In seeking the Supreme Court’s review, PPL Montana and several of its amici sought to frame the Montana Supreme Court’s decision as a “judicial taking.” You will recall that in the 2010 case of Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Supreme Court left the existence and scope of a judicial takings doctrine in a state of flux. To cull from a law review article I authored on Stop the Beach this past winter:
A four-Justice plurality endorsed a novel theory that would make the Takings Clause applicable to a wide collection of state court interpretations of state property law. Writing for the plurality, Justice Scalia declared that a state court’s opinion finding that an “established” property right “no longer exists” may amount to an unconstitutional taking. … Justice Kennedy, joined by Justice Sotomayor, wrote separately to suggest that only when the Constitution’s Due Process Clause proves “somehow inadequate” to protect landowners from the judicial elimination of their existing property rights should the questions surrounding the need for and scope of a judicial takings doctrine be addressed. … Though generally expressing grave doubts about the plurality’s judicial takings standard, Justice Breyer, joined by Justice Ginsburg, concurred in the judgment but found the issue of judicial takings “better left for another day.” [Justice Stevens recused himself.]
In its petition for certiorari, PPL Montana cited to Stop the Beach in asserting that, “[b]ecause [the Montana Supreme Court was] the operative force behind this land transfer [from private ownership to state ownership], it remains to be seen whether property owners in general have a Takings Claim or due process objection to [such a] land grab.” In support of PPL Montana’s petition, the Cato Institute joined the Montana Farm Bureau Federation in contending that the Montana Supreme Court adopted a retroactive rule that destroyed title already accrued in violation of the Takings Clause, calling the Court’s ruling a “thinly-disguised judicial taking.” For its part, the State of Montana maintained that nothing in the Montana Supreme Court’s decision contravened established property law, for PPL Montana’s “deeds and pleadings show it has no riverbed property to take” and the State “has claimed and received compensation for uses of navigable riverbeds for decades.”
It remains to be seen whether the U.S. Supreme Court will address the judicial takings question when it takes up PPL Montana, LLC v. State of Montana in the coming year. The certiorari stage documents are available here. It is anticipated that the parties and their amici will brief the case this summer, with oral argument likely to occur in the winter. Stay tuned to the Land Use Prof Blog for updated information.
It's been a big week at the U.S. Supreme Court; as we get closer to the end of the Term, decisions are rolling out. Some big cases came out yesterday, plus news of what might be a significant land use case in the next Term.
Among yesterday's decisions was American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut, which held: "The Clean Air Act and the EPA action the Act authorizes displace any federal common-law right to seek abatement of carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants."
Also, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al. This case is not land use per se--it's a class action employment issue--but anyone involved in land use knows that Wal-Mart's fortunes are an important fact in the field. The Wal-Mart Wars involve a distillation of many of the major land use issues in current events. I was also pleased that the opinions extensively cited the expertise of the late Prof. Richard Nagareda, who inspired me as a scholar and teacher. Thanks to Troy Covington for the pointer.
In addition to these and other important opinions from the 2010 Term, the Court also granted cert yesterday to what might turn out to be a very important land use case. We are fortunate to have a timely guest-post on that, which I'll post next (scroll up!).
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Tom Romero (Denver) has posted Kelo, Parents and the Spatialization of Color (Blindness) in the Berman-Brown Metropolitan Heterotopia, 2008 Utah L. Rev 947 (2008). Here's the abstract:
The article uses the 1954 eminent domain and school integration decisions in Berman v. Parker and Brown v. Board of Education and the more recent Kelo v. New London and Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District cases to examine the rise of the multiracial metropolis in the United States. By linking and concomitantly exploring the United States Supreme Court’s eminent domain and school desegregation decisions, the article offers a fundamentally new approach to understanding the consequence and import of these decisions in managing property and race relations in the contemporary United States.
Analytical emphasis on the period extending from Berman-Brown through the Kelo-Parents decisions is especially important for two reasons. First, this era dramatically perfected the ability of the state to define as well as manage property and race relations. A coherent vision of well-ordered and sufficiently contained metropolitan space - represented through eminent domain and other municipal land use powers as well as through school desegregation jurisprudence - both propelled and sustained this order. Second, and intricately related is the paradox of color-consciousness and color-blindness during this period. Particularly as the nation’s racial anxieties played themselves out on a global and increasingly multiracial scale through school integration battles, land use law and takings jurisprudence obscured the multicolor segregation taking place in many of the fastest growing metropolitan areas. Together, the novel effect of each of these landmark decisions put into question the viability of a de jure-de facto distinction that became sacrosanct in American constitutional law.
This article utilizes interdisciplinary methodology and resources to describe the manner by which legally enforced color lines on a local scale became paradoxically proscribed, yet essential to what I call the multi-racial heterotopia. As a consequence of scholars largely having failed to make the link between eminent domain and school integration jurisprudence in the construction of the modern metropolitan United States, the article makes a timely and important intervention to the combined analysis of these most recent Supreme Court cases.
Saturday, June 4, 2011
Ilya Somin (George Mason) has posted another timely article, Stop the Beach Renourishment and the Problem of Judicial Takings, forthcoming in Vol. 6 of the Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy (2011). The abstract:
Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection was the Supreme Court’s first effort to address the problem of judicial takings: whether or not a judicial decision can ever qualify as a taking that requires compensation under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Unfortunately, a divided Court failed to resolve the issue, which is now left for future cases.
This article argues that judicial takings do exist. I also explain why this conclusion would not require federal courts to take on any unusual administrative burdens. Part II briefly discusses the background of Stop the Beach. In Part III, I defend Justice Antonin Scalia’s conclusion that “the Takings Clause bars the State from taking private property without paying for it, no matter which branch [of government] is the instrument of the taking.” This principle follows logically from both the text and the original meaning of the Fifth Amendment. Various rationales for distinguishing judicial takings from other takings do not overturn this simple but sound conclusion.
Part IV addresses claims that enforcing a takings doctrine would lead federal courts into severe practical difficulties. A judicial takings doctrine would not require legal principles significantly different from or more complicated than other takings claims. Justice Stephen Breyer and others are wrong to suggest that such a doctrine would “invite a host of federal takings claims” that federal judges would be unable to handle.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Kelo v. City of New London was one of the most controversial decisions in Supreme Court history, generating a massive political backlash that led 43 states to adopt eminent domain reform laws restricting economic development takings of the kind the Court ruled were constitutional. In addition to the better-known legislative reaction, Kelo was also followed by extensive additional property rights litigation in both federal and state courts. This is the first article to systematically analyze the judicial reaction to Kelo.
Part I briefly summarizes Kelo and its holding. Part II considers state court interpretations of their state constitutional public use clauses since Kelo. Most of these cases have repudiated Kelo, either banning economic development takings outright or significantly constraining them. Part III considers judicial interpretations of Kelo’s “pretext” standard. This is the one area where Kelo might potentially permit nontrivial public use constraints on condemnation. Kelo indicated that condemnations are unconstitutional if the officially stated rationale for the taking is a pretext “for the purpose of conferring a private benefit on a particular private party.” State and lower federal courts have not come to any consensus on what qualifies as a pretextual taking. Nevertheless, several decisions suggest that the pretext standard may have some bite.
Overall, state courts have taken a skeptical view of Kelo, often rejecting it as a guide to the interpretation of their state constitutions. This reaction continues the pre-Kelo trend of increasing judicial protection for property rights at the state level.
The article introduces a symposium issue entitled Eminent Domain in the United States: Public Use, Just Compensation, & “The Social Compact.” Published participants include Steven Eagle, Gideon Kanner and Amy Lavine.
May 31, 2011 in Caselaw, Community Economic Development, Constitutional Law, Development, Economic Development, Eminent Domain, Judicial Review, Property, Property Rights, Redevelopment, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Garrett Power (Maryland) has posted the 2011 edition of Constitutional Limitations on Land Use Controls, Environmental Regulations and Governmental Exactions. Matt blogged about the 2010 edition within days of it being posted last Fall. Garrett's use of non-copyrighted case opinion and statutory materials makes for a wonderful land use teaching resource whether or not it is a course's principal casebook. Here's the abstract:
The casebook, which is electronically published in PDF format, is a part of the E-scholarship Repository of the University of Maryland School of Law. It consists of non-copyrighted material and is intended for classroom use. Professors and students are free to use it in whole or part. As the Table of Contents indicates, 170 odd cases have been grouped into 36 "sessions." Most sessions consist of four or five tightly-edited cases and the related statutes, if any. The readings are intended to be historically, economically, politically, and legally evocative; they are designed to provide an assignment appropriate for a 55 minute class discussion. The complication is approximately 1100 pages in length. It is updated annually.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court heard oral arguments Monday in a foreclosure title case called Bevilacqua v. Rodriguez. Earlier in the year, I blogged about the Court's Ibanez opinion invalidating a bank's foreclosure title based on a botched securitization. Bevilacqua concerns the validity of the title claim of a foreclosure sale purchaser. In the Land Court proceedings below, U.S. Bank was unable to establish its ownership of the underlying loan leading to a declaration that the foreclosure and sale left the original owner's title unaffected.
In addition to video of the oral arguments (brought to you by the good folks at Suffolk Law), the SJC website features an amicus brief supporting the decision below submitted by Adam Levitin (Georgetown) and three other leading real estate law professors. If the Court agrees with these prominent academics that "U.S. Bank, N.A. was no more capable of passing good title to the Rodriguez property than a common thief", then the decision could have broad implications for titles coming out of nonjudicial mortgage foreclosures in Massachusetts and possibly many other states. But, that would only happen if slapdash securitizations turned out to have been somewhat commonplace. The Court should issue a ruling in the next few months.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
It's Severance-palooza today on the Land Use Prof Blog, with Hannah Wiseman's great summary of the oral arguments at the recent rehearing of the Open Beaches Act case in the Texas Supreme Court, and the contribution in my previous post from Timothy Mulvaney. Scroll down to the next two posts for that background and analysis.
But wait, there's more! Prof. Mulvaney, who has done a lot of research on takings, including a piece on last year's Stop the Beach Renourishment, has been following Severance v. Patterson for a long time. Last month he hosted a lively panel discussion on the case at Texas Wesleyan School of Law (ably sponsored by their Federalist Society and Environmental Law Society). The participants were David Breemer, the attorney for plaintiff Carol Severance; Ellis Pickett, former chair of the Texas Upper Coast Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation; and yours truly.
Prof. Mulvaney spoke first and gave a helpful introduction to the case and the background of the legal issues. Mr. Breemer, a principal with the Pacific Legal Foundation, gave his client's view of the case and argued vigorously that the state's interpretation of beach-access easement law is an unconstitutional interference with his client's property rights.
I spoke a little bit about the Texas Supreme Court's initial opinion from November 2010, and also about the issue I focused on in my amicus curiae brief, which was (my view) that an easement must be proven up for each property through common law doctrines of dedication, prescription, or custom before we can even get to the question of whether it rolls.
Mr. Pickett, whose Surfrider Foundation also filed an amicus brief (with which a former student of mine assisted in drafting), spoke passionately about the environmental costs of restricting the public interest in the beach. He had lots of compelling pictures and even passed around the room a giant piece of twisted metal to make his point. This was followed by a great Q&A session with the well-informed crowd.
What made it even more interesting is that when Prof. Mulvaney organized the panel, it was conceived as an after-action discussion of the November opinion. It wasn't until just a couple of weeks beforehand that we all learned that the court had taken the unusual step of granting the rehearing. By the way, you can read all of the briefs, including the amici, at the link from this post.
It was a great event, and the other three participants have offered to give me a surfing lesson. The participants have all agreed to contribute to an upcoming issue of the Texas Wesleyan Law Review.
Here's the video! [requires Real Player]. This video, plus Part 2, are also available at the Texas Weslayan web article on the event.
Thanks to Hannah Wiseman for the great post summarizing the recent rehearing in Severance v. Patterson. I meant to get to it last week, but I wouldn't have done half as good a job. But I also encourage you to do as she suggests and listen to the oral argument yourself.
But she's not the only junior land use prof with Texas ties who has some great thoughts about the rehearing. Professor Timothy Mulvaney at Texas Wesleyan also watched the oral argument, and composed some observations on the case, particularly the interesting question of the physical location vs. the purpose of these easements.
[T]he Texas Supreme Court conducted a re-hearing in the “rolling” beach access easement case of Severance v. Patterson. In its original 6-2 decision, the Court distinguished between (1) an easement destroyed by an avulsive event—which the majority originally held in November does not “roll” upland—and (2) an easement destroyed by imperceptible erosion—which the majority originally held does “roll” upland. But the Court today seemed focused not on the avulsion/erosion divide but rather on this question:
Is the geographic location of an easement physically static, such that the easement holder must re-establish that easement each time a natural event (storm, sinkhole, etc.) makes the geographic location of the original easement impassable? Or, is it the purpose of that easement that is static, whereby no re-establishment would be necessary?
The answer may depend on a multitude of factors (e.g., the method of creation, the use of the easement, the character of the property at stake, etc.). There do seem to be several instances where only the easement’s purpose, not its physical location, should remain static. At oral argument, the State pointed to the natural alteration of a river’s course, which does not require a re-establishment of the navigable servitude. Another analogy might be that of oil and gas leases, which convey an easement by implication that is not limited to a fixed location but rather allows use of the surface as reasonably necessary to fulfill the lease’s purpose. I would be interested to hear other analogies or perspectives off-blog (email@example.com), or even on-blog if you are so inclined. Thank you for your time.
Feel free to share your thoughts with Prof. Mulvaney or even better, leave a comment here!
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Michael C. Blumm (Lewis & Clark) and R.D. Guthrie (Lewis & Clark) have posted Internationalizing the Public Trust Doctrine: Natural Law and Constitutional and Statutory Approaches to Fulifilling the Saxion Vision, forthcoming in University of California Davis Law Review, Vol. 44, (2012). The abstract:
The public trust doctrine, an ancient doctrine emanating from Roman law and inherited from England by the American states, has been extended in recent years beyond its traditional role in protecting public uses of navigable waters to include new resources like groundwater and for new purposes like preserving ecological function. But those state-law developments, coming slowly and haphazardly, have failed to fulfill the vision that Professor Joseph Sax sketched in his landmark article of forty years ago. However, in the last two decades, several countries in South Asia, Africa, and the Western Hemisphere have discovered that the public trust doctrine is fundamental to their jurisprudence, due to natural law or to constitutional or statutory interpretation. In these dozen countries, the doctrine is likely to supply environmental protection for all natural resources, not just public access to navigable waters. This international public trust case law also incorporates principles of precaution, sustainable development, and intergenerational equity; accords plaintiffs liberalized public standing; and reflects a judicial willingness to oversee complex remedies. These developments make the non-U.S. public trust case law a much better reflection than U.S. case law of Professor Sax’s vision of the doctrine.
A timely article considering the recent upsurge in caselaw and commentary on the public trust doctrine.
Friday, April 1, 2011
Eduardo Penalver (Cornell) and Lior Strahilevitz (Chicago) have posted Judicial Takings or Due Process? The abstract:
In Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 130 S. Ct. 2592 (2010), a plurality of the Supreme Court concluded that the Takings Clause of the United States Constitution prohibits the judiciary from declaring that “what was once an established right of private property no longer exists” unless the property owner in question receives just compensation. In this paper, we delineate the boundaries between a judicial taking and a violation of the Constitution’s due process protections. The result is a judicial takings doctrine that is narrower and more coherent than the one suggested by Stop the Beach.
Our argument proceeds in two parts. The first is a conceptual section that explains what factors are relevant to determining whether a judicial action diminishing a private property interest is a judicial taking or something else. In our view, where a judicial decision intentionally seizes private property in order to achieve a legitimate public end, the Takings Clause is an appropriate framework for evaluating the constitutionality of the state’s action. Due Process is the more appropriate doctrinal pathway where the judiciary does not intend to abrogate a private owner’s property rights, or where the diminution of private property rights results from a judicial action that serves no legitimate public purpose. By clarifying the boundaries of judicial takings, we also hope to shed light on the constitutional foundation for numerous state-court doctrines concerning the retroactivity of new property rules. The second section articulates a novel functional argument, which suggests that creating liability for judicial takings may cause litigants to underinvest in high quality legal representation, which will in turn increase the likelihood of judicial mistakes and contribute to the destabilization of existing entitlements. This phenomenon prompts us to argue that cases in which the underinvestment incentives are most pronounced should be litigated under the Due Process Clause, but cases where repeat-play or the government’s involvement as a litigant mitigates the underinvestment problem represent more appropriate vehicles for judicial takings treatment. What rides on the distinction between judicial takings and due process violations? Under our approach, judicial takings cases should be (a) easier to win than due process cases, (b) more likely to result in damages remedies than injunctive remedies, and (c) may lend themselves to attractive “comparative fault” inspired solutions.
Looks like a very important paper!
April 1, 2011 in Beaches, Caselaw, Constitutional Law, Judicial Review, Property Rights, Property Theory, Scholarship, State Government, Supreme Court, Takings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Late last week, the Texas Supreme Court granted a rehearing in Severance v. Patterson, the case decided last November holding that the Texas Open Beaches Act does not establish a public easement for dry-sand beach access without proof of dedication, prescription, or custom, and that public access easements do not "roll" inward with the vegetation line after major avulsive events such as hurricanes. Hard to say what this portends, but it can't be good news for the plaintiff-appellant. After the decision, lots of amicus briefs, particularly from local governments, started pouring on the motion for rehearing. Here's a link from the Supreme Court of Texas Blog.
I blogged about the decision in a post which includes a multitude of links to the opinions; to the Texas Supreme Court's webpage for the case (great for finding the amici on the motion for rehearing); to the statute and constitutional amendment; and to various briefs including (full disclosure) my amicus and that of Surfrider Foundation. Oral arugment on the rehearing (not very often granted, as I understand it) is set for April 19.
In the meantime, let's do what we lawyers do best, and talk about it! The Texas Wesleyan School of Law in Fort Worth is hosting a Severance v. Patterson Panel Discussion next Friday, March 25, at 11:30. It will be co-sponsored by the student chapters of the Federalist Society and the Environmental Law Society, and will feature Pacific Legal Foundation attorney David Breemer, lead counsel for the plaintiff; Ellis Pickett, Chairman of the Upper Texas Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and amicus curiae for defendants; and yours truly. The event will be moderated by Texas Wesleyan land use scholar Prof. Timothy Mulvaney. If you can be in DFW next week to join us, please do!
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
The U.S. Supreme Court has issued its opinion in the case CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC. v. ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE et al., No. 09-520. The opinion deals with issues in state & local government law, tax, commerce, and transportation policy, and it may be of interest to folks interested in land use. From the Syllabus:
Petitioner (CSX) is an interstate rail carrier that operates, and pays taxes, in Alabama. The State imposes sales and use taxes on railroads when they purchase or consume diesel fuel, but exempts their main competitors--interstate motor and water carriers. CSX sued respondents, the Alabama Department of Revenue and its Commissioner (Alabama), claiming that this tax scheme discriminates against railroads in violation of the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 (4-R Act or Act), which bars four forms of discriminatory taxation, 49 U. S. C. §11501(b). Three of the delineated prohibitions deal with property taxes, §§11501(b)(1)-(3), and the fourth is a catch-all provision that forbids a State to "[i]mpose another tax that discriminates against a rail carrier," §11501(b)(4). The District Court dismissed CSX's suit as not cognizable under the 4-R Act on the basis of this Court's decision in Department of Revenue of Ore. v. ACF Industries, Inc., 510 U. S. 332, and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed.
Held: CSX may challenge Alabama's sales and use taxes under §11501(b)(4).
I'm posting more from the Syllabus after the jump. Here's the interesting voting lineup:
Kagan, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Scalia, Kennedy, Breyer, Alito, and Sotomayor, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Ginsburg, J., joined.
Friday, February 18, 2011
Those of us who study conservation easements don't have a wealth of case law to debate and scrutinize (query whether that is a bad or good thing). So perhaps it is understandable that we get excitable when there is even a hint of litigation. According to a local newspaper, a couple in Pennsylvania has just sued a local land trust for failing to enforce a conservation easement. In this case, the landowner allegedly violated the conservation easement by clearing woodlands, building a stable, and keeping horses. The plaintiffs claim that the land trust has not adequately enforced the conservation easement.
There are several interesting issues here including two big ones:
(1) Who has standing to bring challenges regarding enforcement of a conservation easement? Here, the plaintiffs own adjoining land. Could the township intervene?
(2) what are a land trusts' enforcement obligations? Did create of the conservation easement create a charitable trust? Can they choose not to enforce a conservation easement? How much discretion do land trusts have in negotiating settlements or conservation easement amendments?
I'm sure the land trust community will be watching this one closely.
- Jessica Owley